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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Every time I lope or gallop in my western saddle I feel like I'm flying up and down. I usually have a great seat as my trainer says, but when I go any faster than a trot I feel as if I loose my deep, comfortable seat. Does anyone have any tips for keeping a better seat in the saddle while loping/galloping? Any advice is appreciated :)
 

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Howdy and welcome to the forum :D.

There are so many variables when it comes to something like that that it's hard to say for sure what would help.

Is there any way you can get someone to take some good video of you loping in one of your lessons? That way, we can see if maybe your saddle doesn't fit you, if you're too tense, if you're bracing with your feet, if your horse is a rough traveller, if your stirrups are too short/long, etc.
 

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A picture would help a lot. In the meantime, here is my favorite video of advice on cantering/loping:

 

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Add a picture of your lope to "Bella". Then you can either copy image location and paste it into the picture tool, or you can at least ask folks to click on your horses and look at the picture there.

When I think of loping/cantering western, I like to use this picture:



If you can move your hips like the green arrow, then you can probably sit the lope. I find putting my feet forward helps, but lots of folks say I am nuts.

Also, it isn't a horrible thing to switch to a forward seat. The motion of the horse's back pivots at the withers. The withers barely move, while the loin has a LOT of up/down action - all the power of the rear legs flowing into the loins. One option is to sit tilting forward, with much of your weight in your thighs near the swells, using what English riders would call a 'half-seat'. I like to start a canter in a half-seat, and then settle in to the saddle once the rhythm is set.

http://www.horseforum.com/english-riding/riding-canter-half-seat-120340/

This was a French exchange student visiting us, riding Trooper in a canter. See how much the loins have moved, and how little the withers have?



Weight on the pockets is fine if you have the rhythm down, but I usually do not at the start. So I start something like this, only with my upper body tilted forward some:



My youngest daughter OTOH just sits in her extreme chair seat and...it works. Darned if I know how! :shock:

 

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It looks like you may be bracing with your feet based on that photo, but I'll shhh because I'm not very useful when it comes to these things.
 

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Unfortunately, with that, it's really hard to tell from just a photo because we can't see how well you're moving with the horse or what their gait is like.
 

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I'm not an expert at riding or instructing how to ride. If I lean forward, I feel like I'm getting launched out of the saddle. If I lean back, I can let my pelvis move more easily with the horse.
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I don't ride western but I did when I was younger.

You look very tense, which on any horse in any discipline.. will have your butt and body getting airtime.

Do you have a tendency to grip with your legs?

Also any reason why your reins are to short? I don't see any barrels or poles?
 

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This was a French exchange student visiting us, riding Trooper in a canter. See how much the loins have moved, and how little the withers have?



[/IMG]
I don't understand what this is supposed to be an example of? How much the loins have moved in relation to what? The withers? Perhaps this is because the rider is letting the horse carry all his weight on the forehand and brace himself on the bit. So, I am confused. Are you suggesting this is a picture of a horse cantering correctly? And a rider sitting the canter correctly?

The horse has to lift the withers to lighten the forehand. If the horse is cantering correctly the ribcage moves up and forward each stride. As long as your hips are free and open the legs will stay under you and you will be able to sit the canter. ( I realize, BSMS, with all your injuries and running history, this is probably difficult for you. I can only imagine the pages of rebuttal you are itching to type out! LOL)

If the horse's ribcage drops forward and down, as Trooper's does in the above photo, it puts more weight on the front legs, pitching the rider forward forcing him to brace in the stirrups. Hence, flopping all over the saddle.

In my opinion, that is a helpful picture of what NOT to do. So, for someone who wants to learn how to ride a correct canter, no. But, hey, if it works for you, all the more power.
 

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Sit up
Concentrate on sitting on your pockets, scoot your bum under you a bit
Shoulders back
Look forward - where are you going?
Heels down, leg relaxed
Hands low and relaxed.....

Now sit and concentrate on 'rolling' your pelvis with the horse. Once you get this down packed you can concentrate on 'altering' or 'influencing' how the horse lopes, but first get your concentration and seat organized.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I don't ride western but I did when I was younger.

You look very tense, which on any horse in any discipline.. will have your butt and body getting airtime.

Do you have a tendency to grip with your legs?

Also any reason why your reins are to short? I don't see any barrels or poles?
I used to try to grip with my legs but I was told that would make it worse. I like my reins short. I keep them short for when I do practice barrels and poles.
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Here we go, not just a pretty picture, but a horse cantering correctly, with a rider riding correctly. No brace in the neck, no weight on the forehand, no hindend trailing out way behind, no rider leaning forward.

 

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...If the horse's ribcage drops forward and down, as Trooper's does in the above photo, it puts more weight on the front legs, pitching the rider forward forcing him to brace in the stirrups. Hence, flopping all over the saddle.

In my opinion, that is a helpful picture of what NOT to do. So, for someone who wants to learn how to ride a correct canter, no. But, hey, if it works for you, all the more power.
No, that was not meant as a picture to show skillful riding. The French exchange student was riding for the first time in 3 years - give him a break! I chose that photo because it is shows the differential that can exist between the front and the rear of the back.

It shows something that is true: the loins of the horse move much more dramatically in a canter than the withers do. If you want to sit to the rear of a cantering horse, you will need to absorb more motion than if you are closer to the front.

Horses are designed to carry more weight on the front end than the rear. They do it all the time. Their natural center of gravity is roughly below the withers, which is why that is a relatively stable spot. In a forward seat, you move your center of gravity to match the horse's. If you prefer to ride a centered balanced seat, then you need to ask the horse to shift his center of gravity under yours - a form of collection.

But a forward seat does not pitch the rider forward, nor does the natural balance of the horse make the rider brace or flop. Because a forward seat, done in a half-seat, is both a natural balance point for the horse and the place where the back moves the least, it is easy for both the horse and rider.

If you have trouble sitting with a center-balance in a canter, then starting with a forward seat allows you to feel the rhythm and ease as far into the saddle (and towards a center-balance seat) as you comfortably can.

I agree with maura's comment in the thread I linked to earlier:

Riding the canter correctly and well in a full seat is difficult, and many more riders do it badly than do it well. As Allison stated above, it requires a degree of abdominal fitness, as well as correct position, relaxation and a good understanding of gait mechanics and how the horse's back moves. That's out of reach for a lot of recreational riders. I would much rather see an elementary or intermediate rider cantering in half seat, allowing the horse to move freely, than someone attempting and failing a full following seat and punishing the horse's back in the process.

There is nothing inherently insecure about riding the canter in half-seat or two point as long as the rider is in balance.
http://www.horseforum.com/english-riding/riding-canter-half-seat-120340/
 

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Here we go, not just a pretty picture, but a horse cantering correctly, with a rider riding correctly. No brace in the neck, no weight on the forehand, no hindend trailing out way behind, no rider leaning forward.

For a somewhat collected canter, that is fine. Notice the horse's head is vertical, so its primary focus is near its feet - fine if you are not covering ground very fast. And I strongly suspect the rider, if I recognize him, has spent far more time in the saddle than the 15 year old exchange student who hadn't ridden in 3 years.

Having more weight on the front than rear is not wrong. It is normal. And riding with a forward seat, and thus leaning forward in a canter, is not wrong either. Notice George Morris's example of 'good riding':



A forward seat is not traditional western riding. But if you have trouble sitting deep in a lope, then it is something to toss in your bag of tricks. It beats the heck out of bouncing on your horse's back until you get in synch.
 

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Oh extreme disagree that weight on the forehand thing.

Not only is it undesireable, creating an unbalanced horse, but it throws off a rider and can cause a lot of problems. For one, the horse can't move correctly without the weight rocked back onto their "engine" i.e. hind end. For two, it puts stress on the front joints which tend to take more impact anyway. There's a reason why we collect a horse from behind...I would never allow a horse to be on the forehand...It's hard to fix too. I spent a lot of lessons bumping Selena up HARD because she was so heavy on the forehand, she was going to fall on her face. If you rode her bareback, you were going to slide right off her neck. She was sore constantly, ****y all the time, etc.

Now, however, she is well balanced, easy to sit, never sore, and really using the athletic ability she is bred for. You have to minimize the weight on the front end to achieve that.


OP - Think move your hips with the horse. Breathe yourself down, and relax. Go loose in your body. My guess (Without seeing a video) is that you're tensing, which is a common problem. Try going to sleep up there for a little while until you get that feel for the lope. I'd still like to see a video though to tell for sure.
 

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SH, it is NORMAL for a horse to carry more weight on the front than on the rear - roughly 57% vs 43%, IIRC. That is how they move when there is no rider. And there are 2 approaches to balancing a horse - a forward seat & a centered seat. What works best depends on what you are trying to do. Go in a tight circle? Centered. A collected gait? Centered. Move over the ground in a relaxed and efficient stride? Forward.

It is still possible for a horse to get too far forward in its balance. But that has nothing to do with the seat. A horse can be balanced and relaxed with a forward seat and natural balance, and can be balanced and somewhat less relaxed in a center balanced seat. I say somewhat, because a horse using energy from the rear to lift the back in a collected gait is working hard to do it. That is why a true collected gait takes years, and why dressage has a training scale to help the horse get there without injury.

For a fast moving horse, the rear legs are the engine providing the thrust, and the front legs are the 'wings' keeping the horse upright. That is the most efficient way a horse can cover ground, which is why race horses use it. Most of us live between the extremes of a race horse and a dressage horse, so we vary our balance and seat for the need of the moment.

Meanwhile, the back flexes its movement in a wave around the withers. If anyone doubts this, go out and canter in a half-seat, with most of your weight on your thighs centered near the withers, and then again in a deep, full seat with as much weight as you can to the rear. The former will feel smoother than the latter. That is because half of the horse's weight is in front of its center of gravity, dampening out the wave.
 

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For a fast moving horse, the rear legs are the engine providing the thrust, and the front legs are the 'wings' keeping the horse upright. That is the most efficient way a horse can cover ground, which is why race horses use it. Most of us live between the extremes of a race horse and a dressage horse, so we vary our balance and seat for the need of the moment.
If you watch a racehorse/ fast moving horse they still use collection and elevation to propel themselves forward. If they didn't they would be tripping over themselves and causing injuries and accidents. I think I understand what you are trying to say and there are different levels of 'collection' in every gait. The collection you see in upper level dressage focus's on the elevated motion of the horse and not as much forward motion (unless you are looking at extended gaits) but in any case when a horse is moving correctly in any gait there is a level of collection whether it be the long and low WP or the more collected dressage movements. That's why when you correctly ask for an upward transition the horse will collect and move into the transition with their hind end, getting off of the forehand to pick up the desired gait. Horses will also do this naturally when not being ridden.

Sitting in a forward seat is very common and not an incorrect way of riding as long as the horse still has collection and elevation in their movements. A horse should always propel themselves from their hind end, not pull themselves forward with their front. No matter what seat, or what gait, or what discipline.
 

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The front end needs a stride that matches the combination of thrust from the rear and speed. If a horse puts out a lot of thrust from the rear, that thrust can go to either lifting the back and front end, or forward motion. Which it does depends on how far the front legs reach out. With a shorter front stride, more of the thrust can go into lifting the back. If the horse reaches out further, it can go into a longer stride and more speed.

If the horse doesn't balance those forces correctly, you get an off-balance horse. Mia was raised in corrals and had almost no experience with cantering. Her tendency was to use the thrust for forward motion, but while taking too short of a stride with her front legs. The result was a very off balance horse, very heavy on the front, to the point it was dangerous. She needed to either generate less thrust, use a longer front stride, or divert some of that energy into supporting weight.

With practice, she is either shifting her balance toward the rear, and using the energy to lift her back (some, not dressage level collection), or cutting back on how much thrust she is producing so as to match the length of her front stride. If I ask her for faster, she is starting to extend her front stride and turning the thrust into speed. For her current level of training, I mostly want her to shift her weight back and use some of the thrust to support weight.

If I was a skilled rider, I could ask her for a canter while sitting deep, and move my body in synch with hers so she could shift into a canter without my bouncing on her back. Being a not-so-skilled rider, I find it easier to start with a forward seat, riding in a half-seat. That frees her back up while keeping the motion I need to follow at a minimum. Once I feel the rhythm, I can settle into the saddle and match it, allowing her to canter without pressure on her back.

Because I'm not bouncing on her loins, she relaxes and feels free to shift some of her balance back, result in a mild degree of collection and a more comfortable ride for both of us. If I try to stay deep in the saddle from the start, I will initially bounce. That makes her resentful, makes her stiffen her back, and makes her shift her balance to the front to avoid my bouncing butt - all bad, and it usually is a downward spiral into even worse riding.

Although a forward seat is associated with English riding, I think the principles are useful to a western rider as well. Two point and half-seat are easy ways of freeing up the horse's back. That is a critical step in getting the horse to balance.
 
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